“Honkin’ On Bobo” is only Aerosmith’s fourteenth studio album in their 34-year career (if you were to count live albums, compilations, greatest hits, etc., it would run into hundreds), and is very much a return to the original earthy sound that made them America’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll sons in the mid-1970s. In the ‘80s they returned with a more commercial style, blasting off phase two of their success story by collaborating with Run-D.M.C. on “Walk this Way”. This was not only a great radio hit, but a firm favorite to this day on stations like MTV.
The band finally got a number one hit with the slushy “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” from the blockbuster movie “Armageddon”, which starred Aerosmith singer Steve Tyler’s beautiful daughter Liv Tyler. During the 90’s and 2000’s Aerosmith put out some classy polished Rock albums, namely “Permanent Vacation”, “Pump”, “Get a Grip”, and “Just Push Play”, which were all commercially very successful and backed up by extensive world tours.
On record Aerosmith was a very smooth animal, but on stage the beast would come out and they would rock like a tornado. So if the polish of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” is your tipple, these nuggets presented here may be a bit rough for you.
For “Honkin’ On Bobo” the band went back to their roots, even bringing back producer Jack Douglas, who last worked with Aerosmith in 1977 on their “Draw the Line” album. Of the twelve songs on this album eleven are covers, but this is not a cop-out by the band, as long have gone the days when they had to do anything to put food on the table. In fact, with their now over a decade of clean living, one wonders what they do spend their fortunes on.
So what you get is a band in a studio having some fun, and at the same time turning out an album that their legions of fans have been waiting years to hear. You can actually feel the guys enjoying themselves on this recording, and the feeling is infectious.
The album opens up with Steve Tyler wailing over some distorted guitar licks from Mr. Perry and Mr. Whitford. ‘’Laaadies and Geeentlemen, step right up, let’s go see the boys.” With that Joe Perry rips out the lead riff from Ellas McDaniel’s (better known as Bo Diddley’s) “Roadrunner”, bringing the rest of the band crashing in on the beat. This is Aerosmith at their best as it says on the album wrapper – “This is Blues done Aerosmith style”. You can hear the sweat running down the guitar frets and see the smiles on their faces.
This is not a collection of Blues songs moaning their lot for all to hear, this is a compilation of tunes celebrating the joys of life. The closest the band actually get to a ballad is the self-penned “The Grind”, which fits in wonderfully well with this collection of classics.
With every song you know that it is undoubtedly Aerosmith. Steve Tyler’s vocals are amongst the best he has ever laid down in a studio, plus he is given plenty of room to show off his harmonica skills.
Joey Kramer, the heartbeat of Aerosmith, thrusts each song along with almost indecent haste, while Brad Whitford’s guitar as usual compliments Joe Perry’s perfectly, and he occasionally steps up into the spotlight to joust with his guitar brother.
Tom Hamilton, the rock on which Aerosmith is built, gives a sterling performance, and is given a chance to shine when the bass is placed way up in the mix for the band’s take on Big Joe Williams’ “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, which was also the band’s first single off the album.
But above all this is Joe Perry’s album. His guitar playing is all over the songs, including a jaw-dropping performance on the Peter Green penned Fleetwood Mac song “Stop Messin’ Round” (yes, I know it is hard to remember that Fleetwood Mac was originally a Blues band.) Not only is the guitar playing out of this world, but Perry actually gets the opportunity to sing lead vocals on this song and also on “Back Back Train”.
Other highlights include a dramatic version of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move”, where Aerosmith out-Stone the Rolling Stones, who had covered the song on their 1971 album “Sticky Fingers”, plus a moody reworking of Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready”. The album is brought to a glorious climax with “Jesus Is On The Main Line” with some wonderful pump organ from Paul Santo and additional lead vocals from the very talented Tracy Bonham.
As the last Aerosmith studio album said: “Just push play”, and you get forty-four minutes of classic Blues/Rock.
Shame, Shame, Shame
Eyesight To The Blind
Baby, Please Don’t Go
Never loved a Girl
Back Back Train
You Gotta Move
Stop Messin’ Around
Jesus Is On The Main Line
Steve Tyler – lead vocals and harmonica
Joe Perry – guitar and vocals
Brad Whitford – guitar
Tom Hamilton – bass guitar
Joey Kramer – drums